Rally for the Centre organised by the Wirksworth & District Sports Group with one hundred present and fifteen apologies in the Town Hall on Thursday 27th April 2017, was chaired by John Thompson, who reported progress in response to the decision of the district council to outsource the Wirksworth Leisure Centre from 2018 on financial grounds. Soon sports group members would meet the consultant who is advising the council on specifications for a contract to run the four Dales centres (also Matlock, Bakewell and Ashbourne). This should, the council tells us, ‘provide greater scope for access to capital finance to provide investment into facilities and services’. It is vital that building, equipment and facilities are handed over in good condition. The Sports Group support the council’s intentions and will work for the best possible outcome for the town; we want the integrated vision – school, provider and community working together – to be sustained and the whole operation to be improved.
Malcolm Kelly (HoAGS) said the strong school involvement would continue; a legal agreement was near with the Foundation Trustees, who own the land as landlords. Joint use community facilities were a great strength for the school and were an attraction to many parents pondering their choice of school.
Rod Leach had interrogated aspects of the finances, a perplexing task: he judged Wirksworth had not been generously treated in the past: an independent condition survey was vital; £101,000 of structural work had been identified by as needed, but not actioned by the council; we needed a new main hall floor. The group will urge equality of treatment in budgets. How would the council achieve its desired savings in future years?
Dr Penny Blackwell made a passionate case for close involvement of the Hannage Brook Medical Centre (8,800 patients) in the activities of the leisure centre hub; patients, were recommended, some on prescription, to activities in gym and swimming pool. She saw great value in young people being introduced to a variety of physical activities for their health, social and mental wellbeing. The chair thanked Dr Blackwell for the powerful account of medical needs and Leisure Centre liaison she had written for the Wirksworth submission.
Dave Baker (chair of pool trustees) said numbers at the pool had increased significantly through outstanding efforts by volunteer trustees and supporters, but the handover from the council had left them with heavy expenses on structural items, which should have been in better order. He wanted a closer relationship with the new managers.
Sue Marshall spoke as parent governor of the needs of the school and as a cricketer about the 120 adult and youth players who used the centre in the winter; new cricket nets needed.
Points raised from the floor included: legal status of the agreement; the special value of the climbing wall as a regional facility with appropriate staffing and skilled re-routing of the facility needed – Bob Davies is on the case; the strong view of the meeting that any operator be a ‘not for profit/dividend provider’ – a group had visited Alfreton and saw well organised leisure services outsourced by Amber Valley to a trust; the problems of pursuing the Community Asset Trust route, which the sports group had rejected – Wirksworth would have stood alone with little money and many complexities; the needs of young people; suggestion that the group use social media more – Tim Richards offered to help. The long report to the council from the sports group is on the Destination Wirksworth web site, a long and valuable read.
A show of hands revealed that only a disappointing ten per cent of those attending had filled in a consultation form; it was considered too limiting for constructive suggestions on future developments.
Councillor Irene Ratcliffe thanked the chair and sports group colleagues for their excellent work and pledged the support of local councillors, County, District and Town in working towards a solution that met the needs of our community.
On 18th May there will be a councillors ‘workshop’ followed by committee (15th June) and full council meeting (22nd June), when a final decision will be made on the specification and tender arrangements. The plan is for transfer sometime in 2018. A briefing sheet was available to those attending and a copy is attached in the next notice…